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Rossella Ferrandino
Rossella Ferrandino

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Making the world a better place with open source

About a month ago, I submitted my very first pull request to an open source project on Github. It felt like using my coding "superpowers" for the greater good. Let me tell you a bit more about my journey and how I found a good first project to contribute to.

Why open source

I have been trying to contribute to open source for about two years now. That's right, two years. I had always read that this is one of the best ways to step up your coding skills. It allows you to learn how to work collaboratively, to read code written by experienced developers and to meet people interested in similar things. I had the drive and motivation, all that was missing was a project to contribute to.

I searched for issues using the recommended issue aggregators such as Up For Grabs or Code Triage, I had even bookmarked a Github search with a filter for all issues tagged as "good first issue", which I checked regularly. But every time I went through a specific repository, I was overwhelmed with self doubt and intimidated by the code base, so I got discouraged and eventually gave up.

This year, I got more involved in the Women Who Code Tokyo community. I had attended their events for almost two years and I decided to step up and help organize some of the upcoming workshops and events.
Then I heard about SpeakHer, made by three amazing women in this network and for a really good cause, so I decided to give open source another go.


SpeakHer hero image
SpeakHer is a bilingual database of public female speakers in Japan and it has the purpose of reducing the imbalance of presenters at conferences and other events. It allows event organizers to search for female speakers and fellow speakers to connect and support each other.
The project is a serverless Vue.js site hosted on Netlify and using Airtable as database.

As I was already part of their network, I joined a Zoom call with the project maintainers, explained my background and got assigned to a couple of good first issues. The purpose of this type of Github issues is to allow new contributors to get familiar with the codebase and to make a minor improvement to the site. I really admire the project maintainers for their passion and patience in mentoring new contributors to the project 👏
This is SpeakHer Github repository if you would like to check it out.

What I am learning

I have now made two contributions to this project, mostly focused on form validations. The skills I am improving are definitely communication skills, as I need to explain why I am making a certain type of changes to the code and technical skills such as navigating a new codebase, using following consistent naming conventions and reading documentation to implement what is required.

In conclusion, I would recommend contributing to open source, not only to leave your mark in projects that could have a positive impact on people, but to also learn and improve technically.

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